Local contestant on ‘The Voice’ is living the dream – and reality
Living the dream for many artists often is synonymous with surviving the reality. And for League City singer-songwriter Mark Lum, an appearance on the popular TV talent show “The Voice” was one such tale of survival.
Lum was born in Marietta, Ga., but it was in Key West, Fla., where he attended high school and was bitten by the performance bug. And it was in Key West that he developed his love for reggae music and honed his chops as a frontman playing in night clubs around the popular vacation town.
Taking on his first professional singing gig at age 19, Lum in just a few years was burned out on the revolving tourist music scene. In 2010, he decided he needed a change.
Moving to the Houston/Galveston area where he had family, Lum soon became part of the strong music community in the region. While living in Alvin for a brief period, Lum formed the reggae-inspired Alvin and The Slickpunks, a band named more for its location than as an homage to the cartoon group of singing chipmunks. The trio began playing shows.
Early last year, thanks to a few YouTube videos Lum posted years earlier of his solo performances, the scouts at NBC’s “The Voice” were impressed enough to call and invite him for an audition in New Orleans. By then, Lum was living with his fiancé, singer-songwriter Britney Doyal, and their 1-year-old daughter, Callie. A trip to New Orleans was going to be difficult. But with the help of Doyal’s mother, the family drove with great anticipation toward what they all hoped would be Lum’s big break.
The national audition for “The Voice” is a massive undertaking, involving thousands of singers all vying for a chance to be on the show before a live TV audience. Contestants compete by singing songs to celebrity judges, who either advance them to the next round or send them home. From the first few behind-the-scenes auditions to the televised performance, it’s sink or swim.
Lum made it through the first two auditions in New Orleans and Los Angeles playing his guitar and singing a reggae-infused version of the 1980s rock song, “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction. But he said he was frequently told what songs the producers prefer he sang. They went so far as to tell him he wasn’t allowed to perform Sublime’s 1997 reggae-rock hit “Santeria,” a song he felt best showed off his vocal abilities, he said.
On the day of his taped performance in front of the TV audience and celebrity singers and judges — Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams — Lum gave it his all. Although he didn’t advance on the show, he felt his performance was strong, he said. He looked forward to seeing himself on TV later in the year when the show would air. Many contestants on televised talent shows similar to “The Voice” go on, win or lose, to enjoy career opportunities from such national exposure.
“I was so psyched,” Lum said. “I told my mom, my family, my friends — I thought it was going to be so much publicity. Even though I didn’t get picked, I thought I did well.”
On March 2, Episode 3, Season 8, of “The Voice” was set to air. Lum, family and friends gathered around their TVs to watch. As the show progressed, several singers Lum got to know while auditioning were featured in their 90-second performances. About midway through the episode, as Lum sat waiting patiently for his performance to air, a montage was shown of several singers who had participated in the show but hadn’t been selected by the judges. Lum was among the singers in the montage and suddenly saw his potential 15 minutes of fame reduced to the two opening lines of his song before cutting away.
“It was gut wrenching,” he said.
Despite the disappointment, Lum would do it again “in a heart beat,” he said. Like many hard lessons in fate, a silver lining has appeared and Lum was recently given the opportunity to join one of his favorite local bands, Cassette Tape. He continues to live his dream of playing reggae music.
At 6 p.m. Aug. 8, Lum will appear with Cassette Tape in Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand in Galveston’s downtown, as part of “Music Nite On The Strand”.